Australian Esports Market Overview
Esports is one of the fastest growing IT market segment. While still in its infancy with global revenues that are still comparatively small, projected to reach 1.07 billion US$ in 2019 (source:statista.com), it is a market with strong growth potential and plenty of ongoing innovation. Annual growths average about 25% according to the same source, while others claim a YoY growth of astounding 40% (source:newzoo.com). Very few economic niches are able to match these impressive figures, and this has not gone unnoticed.
The potential has been recognized by many companies and investors, and this climate of rapid growth has brought Esports into the mainstream, further enhancing the user base. According to Deloitte, an estimated 150 million people watch Esports events. Newzoo puts this number at about 180 million spectators.
The market revenue is split about evenly between Asia, North America and Europe, with rest of the world accounting for only a few percent of total revenue (statista.com). Interestingly, China and South Korea generate some 23 percent of total global Esports revenues. However, when it comes to audiences, Asia is by far the most active, contributing 44 percent of all enthusiasts (newzoo.com). While the audience growth is slower than the growth in revenue, with about 10% YoY, the potential is still strong. The audience is predicted to reach 385 million people, 191 million of which are enthusiasts and the rest are occasional viewers (Newzoo.com). The awareness of Esports is growing, and about 1 billion people are now aware of the existence of Esports, which is a huge potential market. 65.7 percent of gamers are aware of Esports (Newzoo.com/insights/articles/global-esports-awareness-exceeds-1-billion-as-new-initiatives-launched/).
And what about Australia? Do these impressive figures also hold there? Well, yes and no. Australia is a very connected society with lots of internet-enabled devices, smartphones and PCs. Its gaming market is fairly large when looked at in terms of its population. Out of some 24 million people, more than 20 million go online, and about a half (12.1 million) are gamers, in the widest sense of the word.
About 55 percent of Australians spend money on games, and on average they spend about 175 US$ per player per year. Total revenue of gaming is 1.2 billion US$, and is slowly growing year after year. This makes Australia a market with huge untapped potential for Esports.
Why untapped? In Australia, there are no dedicated Esports channels, services or broadcasters as in the other parts of the globe. Because of that, data is also lackluster, as it is difficult to single out Australian users exclusively. However, it is reasonable to estimate that the audience is substantial, with at least a few hundred thousand participants and spectators.
There are several issues that hamper Australia’s ability to participate in Esports. First, its relative geographic isolation from the rest of the world means higher latencies and general unsuitability for hosting and participating in truly international competitions (source: University of Melbourne). Most events are still hosted in North America (37 percent). Esports games require excellent connections with very little lag, as they demand quick reflexes and reactions. This creates a handicap for Australian players when they are competing against international players. Streaming is also affected, albeit to a lesser degree. Internet speeds in Australia are not much better than the world average, and are below most of the developed countries’. Data caps imposed by many ISPs also limit the ability to download regular game updates, many of which are substantial.
Still, the situation is Australia is not grim at all. The country is very developed, with many young adults holding steady jobs and having plenty of discretionary income. Most are online and play games regularly, which creates unprecedented potential for the development of an Esports scene.
To newcomers on the scene, the relative lack of competition, broadcasters and tournament organizers can only be perceived as a boon, not something detrimental. The audience is interested and receptive; gaining publicity should be very easy.
In the last few years, various platforms and solutions were developed. Plenty of new startups and companies have challenged the dominance of key players. One of the most interesting, and also the most significant markets in terms of size and potential is Esports betting. As with any other sport, people can wager on the outcome of an Esports match.
The betting market is budding, although the development is hampered by the current restrictive legislation. The market is significant even in its current state. It is predicted that the total bets in 2016 amounted to 550 million US$. But, there is a large unregulated Esports betting market that was projected to reach 7.4 million US$ in 2016 (source:Bloomberg.com). It is, however, still a small amount compared to other betting and casino activities. Exact data is very difficult to come across, unfortunately.
The great potential of Esports betting does not only lie in its novelty. There is a large number of events that one can bet on – over 6,000 per year, which means plenty of opportunity for bookmakers and bettors alike. Due to its digital nature, the implementation of live betting is trivial. There is no need for broadcasting, as anyone with a mobile device or a computer can stream the events live. The extent of “grey” market betting is also an indicator that people are interested and regulated, well-run betting platforms could take over some of these users, especially with recent crackdowns from Valve, whose digital currency is often used as a medium of exchange.
Demographics is also an interesting point. The players are generally as invested in the teams they support as in the conventional sports, with a caveat that these two groups mostly do not overlap. In other words, Esports betting targets a different demographic than conventional betting, and the success of Esports betting is not dependent on luring players away from conventional online betting sites.
Players who watch and bet on Esports generally also have above average earnings with plenty of discretionary income. Traditional bookmakers have tried getting into this market, but there is room for new players and startups, such as an Australian startup Unikrn, whose dedicated Esports only platform is a strong contender against the “legacy” sportsbooks such a Pinnacle, Bet365, Betway or Unibet.
Most of the betting action is live (about 90 percent). Only a minority of users bet before the match starts. This indicates that user participation is much higher than with conventional sports, where many do not watch the games they are betting on. Live bookmaking is therefore of great importance, and platforms must be developed to let people place bets quickly and simply.
When focusing on Australia, it should be noted that Australia is a country with a high percentage of gamblers. In fact, it is the highest in the world. Over four fifths of adults in Australia partake in some form of gambling. Most players play slot and poker machines (pokies). Gambling is a huge revenue source for the government, contributing as much as 5 billion US$ to the state budget. The gambling regulations vary from state to state (source). Prudent legislation could benefit both the government and the Esports betting companies that operate in Australia and provide their services worldwide. The increased tax income and new jobs are among the most obvious benefits.
While it is seen as a predominantly social activity, problem gambling is a serious issue in Australia. However, not all forms of gambling are the same, and sports (including Esports) betting is much less likely to cause serious problem, such as addictions. Due to a large population of gamblers and the fact that recreational gambling is deeply ingrained in the culture, Esports betting could certainly develop a very vibrant and interested user base, possibly luring players away from the dangerous and destructive slot machines.
Some forms of games lend themselves better to recreational gamblers who might not be very active Esports spectators. While it is expected that only those with at least some knowledge in MOBA games such as DOTA 2 or League of Legends would make bets, games such as CS:GO could be of interest to a casual, non-gamer punter.
Overall, Esports is an area with huge potential. Over the last few years, it has experienced nothing but consistent and impressive growth, and there are no signs that it is about to slow down. The number of potential users is still very large, and the awareness of Esports is at an all time high. The growth of Esports will no doubt bring it into the mainstream, with help from the advertisers who spend big money on getting their name on the tournament scene.
Speaking of tournaments, the prize pools have steadily been increasing. Valve’s International, for example, has 85 million US$ since its inception. It is no doubt that these pools will increase, no doubt helped by the ever-growing digital marketing budgets of large mainstream companies.
This includes the more “serious” companies and brands who historically did not have much to do with the world of gaming, likely in an effort to connect with the young generation, as 53% of the Esports audience is aged 21 to 35 (source).
Australia is an interesting case study of huge untapped market, with all the prerequisites required for success. There is a huge potential user base with plenty of discretionary income. Most of the population are internet users and about a half play games. And when it comes to Esports betting, Australians are certain to become among the most active participants in the Esports betting scene.